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Thursday, September 25, 2014

The IRS Scandal, Day 504

IRS Logo 2Daily Caller:  500 Days After IRS Scandal Broke, Reporter Still Refuses To Pay His Taxes, by Patrick Howley:

This week the IRS conservative targeting scandal turned 500 days old. It’s been 500 days since we learned that Lois Lerner’s former agency targeted right-leaning groups applying for nonprofit status and audited ones that already exist. And it has been 500 days since I righteously decided to stop paying my taxes.

500 days later, the IRS still hasn’t produced emails from Lerner and the more than 20 other IRS employees whose computers allegedly crashed, whose Blackberries were thrown away and “upgraded,” and, in Lerner’s case, whose hard drive was “scratched” and destroyed. But we know that Lerner exchanged confidential taxpayer information on conservatives with top White House adviser Jeanne Lambrew during the 2012 election cycle. We know that Lerner and her White House-visiting underling Nikole Flax were involved in a “secret research project” involving conservative donor information that was approved by then-IRS commissioner Steven T. Miller. President Barack Obama first called the whole thing “outrageous.” Then he said there’s “not a smidgen of corruption.”

How much longer will this go on? New IRS chief John Koskinen said that “hard drive crashes continue as we speak.” Lerner is giving softball interviews with Politico about how conservatives (who she once called “assholes”) are trying to ruin her life. The White House has yet to be subpoenaed for the emails it exchanged with Lerner. Same goes for the Department of Justice. ...

500 days ago, we learned that the most powerful tax-collecting agency in the United States has been turned into a political weapon and their enemy is average hardworking American citizens. When people find out such a thing, it tends to lead to feelings of hopelessness. It makes people cynical. Important institutions have been corrupted and there’s nothing we can do about it because they claim that the computers crashed and that’s the end of it? And 500 days later, we still don’t have the emails?

This 500-day mark should be the point where we as Americans decide we’re not going to take it anymore, when we demand answers, when we try to get basic information out of our government so we can have just one tiny fragment of justice and decency and common sense back in our lives. But it doesn’t feel like it. It feels instead like the force of 315 million people shrugging. It feels like a country accepting that we’re circling the drain as a free-market democracy, putting their headphones in and going back to looking down at their not-at-all-private cell phones. 500 days of this. 500 days.

I did not pay my taxes this year. I will not pay my taxes until every single Lois Lerner email is released and the people who planned and carried out this governmental travesty are held accountable. So start watching that clock, John Koskinen, if you think you’re going to get my overdue money, and every day this goes on is another day I’m not giving you a dime (soon it will hit 619 days, one for every hard-earned dollar I “owe.”)

Go ahead and take me to court, federal government. I’m not giving you $619 I need so I can subsidize a fraction of a new salary bonus for some unethical bureaucrat who audited my friends and fellow countrymen. Your corruption cast a hopeless pall over this great but troubled country and its great but jaded people.

I will not pay, IRS. Because America already did.

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September 25, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

60 Minutes: Is It Too Easy to Become a Tax Preparer?

(Click here to view video directly on CBS to avoid interruption caused by blog's refresh rate.)

September 24, 2014 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 503

IRS Logo 2The Volokh Conspiracy:  Targeting the Constitution, by Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz (Georgetown):

It is now well known that the IRS targeted tea party organizations. What is less well known, but perhaps even more scandalous, is that the IRS also targeted those who would educate their fellow citizens about the United States Constitution.

According to the inspector general’s report (pp. 30 & 38), this particular IRS targeting commenced on Jan. 25, 2012 — the beginning of the election year for President Obama’s second campaign. On that date: “the BOLO [‘be on the lookout’] criteria were again updated.” The revised criteria included “political action type organizations involved in … educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights.”

Grass-roots organizations around the country, such as the Linchpins of Liberty (Tennessee), the Spirit of Freedom Institute (Wyoming), and the Constitutional Organization of Liberty (Pennsylvania), allege that they were singled out for special scrutiny at least in part for their work in constitutional education. There may have been many more.

The tea party is viewed with general suspicion in some quarters, and it is not difficult, alas, to imagine the mindset of the officials who decided to target tea party organizations for special scrutiny. But federal officers swear an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” It is chilling to think that these same officials who are suspicious of the tea party are equally suspicious of the Constitution itself.

What is most corrosive about this IRS tripwire is that it is triggered by a particular point of view; it is not, as First Amendment scholars say, viewpoint-neutral. It does not include obfuscating or denigrating the Constitution; only those “involved in … educating on the Constitution” are captured by this criterion. This viewpoint targeting potentially skews every national debate about politics or government. And the skew in not strictly liberal; indeed, it should trouble liberals as much as conservatives. The ultimate checks on executive power are to be found in the United States Constitution. Insidiously, then, suppressing those “involved in … educating on the Constitution” actually skews national debate in favor of unchecked executive power. ...

“We the People” do not yet know who first decided to target “political action type organizations involved in … educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights.” But there is at least one person who does know. Ironically, though, Lois Lerner, former director of the Exempt Organizations Division of the IRS, is making full use of her own constitutional education: “I have been advised by my counsel to assert my constitutional right not to testify …. One of the basic functions of the Fifth Amendment is to protect innocent individuals, and that is the protection I’m invoking today.”

Five years ago, Obama, our constitutional law professor-in-chief, presented his first, ringing Constitution Day proclamation: “To succeed, the democracy established in our Constitution requires the active participation of its citizenry. Each of us has a responsibility to learn about our Constitution and teach younger generations about its contents and history.” Quite so. Perhaps this year, Obama could explain why his IRS would target those who answered this call.

Legal Inusrrection:  Imperial Bureaucrat: Lois Lerner Denies Everything; Media Savvy Lerner Speaks to Politico, But Not Congress, by William Jacobson (Cornell):

The Politico article has been excoriated as a puff piece, and that it is. But it’s more. It’s a reflection of how savvy Lerner is, how she is able to manipulate not just tax exempt approvals, but also the congressional oversight system.

Lerner knows that to a large extent congressional oversight and findings of contempt are empty threats. So Lerner feels comfortable reading a statement professing her innocence while refusing to “testify,” and to spreading her word via Politico while never subjecting herself to proper cross-examination.

Lerner is the Imperial Bureaucrat, secure in the knowledge that she is all but untouchable in the warm embrace of a Democratic administration which sees not a smidgen of corruption despite the facts the administration itself has admitted or produced. ...

It’s said that in jest there is truth. Lerner joked how she hoped for a D.C. office job with a pro-Obama organizing group. ...

Why isn’t Lois Lerner worried now? Why is there no contrition? Why does she feel safe talking to Politico?

Because Lerner knows that the Imperial Bureaucracy will protect one of its Imperial Bureaucrats.

And that there will be a job out there for Lerner with Democratic operative groups once this has all blown over. After all, she has years of experience acting as a Democratic operative.

Reason:  Lois Lerner Claims the IRS Did Nothing Wrong. The Data Say Otherwise.:

Reason

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September 24, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Treasury Department Takes Action to Rein in Tax Inversions

Press and blogosphere coverage:

See also Steven M. Rosenthal (Tax Policy Center), Professor Shay Got It Right: Treasury Can Slow Inversions, 144 Tax Notes 1445 (Sept. 22, 2014).

(Hat Tip: Brian Davis.)

September 23, 2014 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 502

IRS Logo 2Politico:  Exclusive: Lois Lerner Breaks Silence, by Rachael Bade: 

Employers won’t hire her. She’s been berated with epithets like “dirty Jew.” Federal agents have guarded her house because of death threats. And she’s spent hundreds of thousands of dollars defending herself against accusations she orchestrated a coverup in a scandal that has come to represent everything Americans hate about the IRS.

Lois Lerner is toxic — and she knows it. But she refuses to recede into anonymity or beg for forgiveness for her role in the IRS tea party-targeting scandal.

“I didn’t do anything wrong,” Lerner said in her first press interview since the scandal broke 16 months ago. “I’m proud of my career and the job I did for this country.”

Lerner, who sat down with POLITICO in an exclusive two-hour session, has been painted in one dimension: as a powerful bureaucrat scheming with the Obama administration to cripple right-leaning nonprofits. Interviews with about 20 of her colleagues, friends and critics and a survey of emails and other IRS documents, however, reveal a much more complicated figure than the caricature she’s become in the public eye.

The portrait that emerges shows Lerner is, indeed, fierce, unapologetic and perhaps even tone-deaf when she says things that show her Democratic leanings. She had a quick temper and may have intimidated co-workers who could have helped her out of this mess. It’s easy to see how Republicans have seized on the image of a devilish figure cracking down on conservative nonprofits.

Wall Street Journal:  IRS Apologists, by James Taranto:

Politico landed an exclusive interview with Lois Lerner, the former IRS official at the center of the still-unresolved scandal, and to call it a whitewash would be an insult to lime.

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September 23, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Tax Court Approves Taxpayer's Use of Predictive Coding to Respond to IRS's Discovery Request, Reducing Costs by 80%

In a case of first impression, the Tax Court has approved a taxpayer's use of predictive coding technology to respond to the IRS's discovery demand for tax information.  Dynamo Holdings LP v. Commissioner, 143 T.C. No. 9 (Sept. 17, 2014):

Predictive CodingRespondent requests that petitioners produce the electronically stored information (ESI) contained on two specified backup storage tapes or, alternatively, that they produce the tapes themselves (or copies thereof). Petitioners assert that it will take many months and cost at least $450,000 to fulfill respondent’s request because they would need to review each document on the tapes to identify what is responsive and then withhold privileged or confidential information. Petitioners request that the Court ... let them use predictive coding, a technique prevalent in the technological industry but not yet formally sanctioned by this Court, to efficiently and economically identify the nonprivileged information responsive to respondent’s discovery request [at a cost of $80,000]. ...

Although it is a proper role of the Court to supervise the discovery process and intervene when it is abused by the parties, the Court is not normally in the business of dictating to parties the process that they should use when responding to discovery. If our focus were on paper discovery, we would not (for example) be dictating to a party the manner in which it should review documents for responsiveness or privilege, such as whether that review should be done by a paralegal, a junior attorney, or a senior attorney. Yet that is, in essence, what the parties are asking the Court to consider--whether document review should be done by humans or with the assistance of computers. ...

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September 22, 2014 in IRS News, New Cases, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tax Court: Couple Failed to Report $30 Million Gift, But Not Liable for Penalty Due to Reliance on Advice From EY, WilmerHale

EYWHIn Cavallaro v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2014-189 (Sept. 17, 2014), the Tax Court held that a Massachusetts couple failed to report a $30 million gift to their sons as a result of misvaluations in a merger of their company with their sons' company, but were not liable for penalties because they reasonably relied on the advice of Ernst & Young (now EY) and Hale & Dorr (now William Cutler Hale & Dorr).

Mr. and Mrs. Cavallaro made the requisite showing of reasonable cause. They had little to no advanced education, including no formal accounting, legal, or business education. Mr. and Mrs. Cavallaro hired advisers who were competent professionals with sufficient expertise to justify reliance. They engaged professionals from a well-known accounting firm and a well-known law firm to structure the tax-free merger of their S corporation, Knight Tool, with their sons' S corporation, Camelot Systems. As discussed above, the professionals initially had differing opinions regarding the ownership of the CAM/ALOT technology, and the issue was explicitly considered by those professionals. The team of advisers eventually structured the merger transaction according to the idea proposed by the Cavallaros' attorney Mr. Hamel at Hale & Dorr -- that is, that on the date of the merger, the CAM/ALOT technology belonged to Camelot and not to Knight (and therefore that no gift occurred) because of a prior transfer. They obtained the valuation report by Mr. Maio based on this assumption and allocated the post-merger stock accordingly.

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September 22, 2014 in IRS News, New Cases, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 501

IRS Logo 2Forbes:  Congress Moves To Reform The IRS, by Robert W. Wood:

Does the IRS need reforming? Many people think so, and not just people focused on the Tea Party targeting scandal, Lois Lerner and the missing emails. Anyone who has had a seriously bad tax audit or a run-in with an overly aggressive IRS Revenue Agent who many seem to take no for an answer may have a bone to pick.

It still isn’t a happy time for the IRS, and it seemed somehow lackluster when the IRS announced a Taxpayer Bill Of Rights. Many observers yawned. Even so, there is no question but that the IRS has a tough job to do. On the whole, the IRS does an amazingly even-handed job at it too. Yet if you are in the crosshairs, that may not be comforting. And seeing the poor and sometimes evasive testimony for top IRS officials over the last year or so hasn’t been inspiring.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that bills are getting introduced in Congress and some are passing. Well, sort of. The House has passed several recently. All were intended to highlight complaints that the IRS mistreated conservative political groups when they applied for tax-exempt status.

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September 22, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The IRS Scandal, Day 500

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal: Stonewall Koskinen: The IRS Commissioner Was Supposed to Clean Up the Mess. Instead, He's Running Interference, by Kimberley A. Strassel:

Nine months have passed since President Obama installed John Koskinen as IRS Commissioner, charged with unearthing the agency's targeting scandal and restoring its credibility. It's about nine months past time to acknowledge that Mr. Koskinen is the problem, not the answer.

The 75-year-old former Fannie Mae executive on Wednesday put in another superficial appearance before House investigators, spent another two hours dodging questions, jabbing at investigators, and excusing the misdeeds of the least-trusted organization in America. This from the guy brought in to clean up the mess—a man presented in confirmation as a "turnaround artist" and "reformer."

The Koskinen fail is now becoming a central political focus, as Republicans and even some Democrats question his tenure. Mr. Obama had declared him someone who "knows how to lead in difficult times, whether that means ensuring new management or implementing new checks and balances." Where are the sweeping changes? Where's the accountability? When the best the IRS commissioner can promise America is that "whenever we can, we follow the law"—we're in worse shape than nine months ago.

The only thing Mr. Koskinen has seemed remotely interested in turning around is his agency's ugly story-line. He has yet to even accept his agency did anything wrong, spending a March hearing arguing that the IRS didn't engage in "targeting" and claiming the Treasury inspector general agreed. This was so misleading the Washington Post gave Mr. Koskinen "three Pinocchios, " noting the IG had testified to the exact opposite.

Under his management, the agency has ignored and strung out congressional demands for documents and witnesses. Mr. Koskinen waited months to tell Congress the IRS had "lost" the emails of Lois Lerner, the former IRS official at the center the probe, and arguably only did so because an outside lawsuit revealed that the email record was incomplete. He testified that there were no backup tapes with Lerner emails, but we have since learned there are 760 server drives that may contain copies.

The "reformer" has bristled at every question. He's indignant that investigators might question how the Lerner emails were lost; indignant that they'd ask why her BlackBerry BB.T +0.93% was wiped after their investigation began; indignant that they'd wonder why he didn't tell them about the lost email. We're still waiting for him to show any indignation at the IRS employees who abused the law, and hid the fact.

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September 21, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The IRS Scandal, Day 499

IRS Logo 2Press Release,  Citing IRS Wrongdoing, Judicial Watch Asks Federal Court to Permit Discovery to Find ‘Missing’ Emails in IRS Abuse Scandal:

Judicial Watch announced today that it has filed a Motion for Limited Discovery in its Freedom of Information (FOIA) lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in order to force the agency to comply with federal court orders to produce information about how “lost and/or destroyed” IRS records relating to the targeting of conservative groups may be retrieved. The motion was filed on September 17, 2014, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, and requests a hearing for oral argument. The matter is before U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan (Judicial Watch v. IRS (No. 1:13-cv-1559)).

Judicial Watch notes that this litigation “presents a rare case in which revelations about crashed hard drives and missing emails, conflicting public reports about backup systems, and material omissions to the Court raise serious questions about the agency’s compliance with FOIA. Limited discovery is needed to answer these questions.”

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September 20, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 19, 2014

The IRS Scandal, Day 498

IRS Logo 2Government Executive:  IRS Chief Rebuts Claim of Governmentwide Email Backup:

Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen on Wednesday responded for the first time to assertions by a legal nonprofit that missing emails relating to the political targeting controversy at the tax agency exist on a governmentwide backup system.

His conclusion: There is no such governmentwide email trove, and confusing media accounts were based on a misunderstanding.

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September 19, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The IRS Scandal, Day 497

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal:  Koskinen Faces Fresh IRS Fire at House Hearing:

House Republicans took Internal Revenue Commissioner John Koskinen to task again on Wednesday, citing his recent criticisms of congressional investigations into alleged IRS targeting of conservative groups. Wednesday’s hearing marked a renewal of GOP attacks on the IRS chief, after a period of relative quiet while Congress was on its summer break.

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September 18, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The IRS Scandal, Day 496

IRS Logo 2New York Times op-ed:  Apples and Hurricanes: Obama Beyond Bush, by Frank Bruni:

Whenever Barack Obama seems in danger of falling, do we have to hear that George W. Bush made the cliff? ... The I.R.S. scandal was not as bad as Watergate. (Nothing’s ever as bad as Watergate, which serves a nifty historical function as the gold standard of executive malfeasance and mendacity.) ...

If we’re determined to glance back at a figure who flatters Obama, let’s really have at it and look all the way to Warren Harding. Golf wasn’t his only distraction. He also had a thing for poker. And when it came to seeming and feeling overwhelmed, the 29th president, an Ohio Republican, reputedly confessed to friends that he was lost in the job. By that measure Obama is a rock. But it doesn’t make him a boulder.

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September 17, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Retired IRS Agent Pushes NY to Audit Tax Cheats

Following up on my previous posts (links below):  Albany Times-Union, Audits Sought on Tax Cheats:

New York StateFor two years, a retired Internal Revenue Service officer has been urging state officials to audit big real estate partnerships, particularly in Manhattan, to track down tax cheats owing the state hundreds of millions of dollars.

But Jerry Curnutt hasn't gotten traction at the state Department of Taxation and Finance, and he hasn't been able to impress upon the state comptroller or attorney general how big a deal the matter is. "Why are they not doing them?" he said. "The reason: Don't make waves."

David Cay Johnston, the Pulitzer-Prize winning tax reporter for the New York Times, is so sure of Curnutt's abilities in finding real estate partnership tax cheats that the journalist said he would pay $10,000 out of his own pocket to cover Curnutt's fees. Curnutt, a 77-year-old consultant from Texas who retired from the IRS in 2000, was employed by Pennsylvania for six years on such an assignment through 2008. During that time he charged the state $190,483, at $140 an hour plus expenses. The Keystone State assessed $49 million against real estate partners who had not reported gains, its tax department said. "Additionally, Curnutt helped the department develop a case involving $700 million in nonreported income," said Department of Revenue spokeswoman Elizabeth Brassell.

September 16, 2014 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

The IRS Scandal, Day 495

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal editorial:  Covering for the IRS:

The IRS targeting of conservative groups has now become a story about the cover-up. More than a year after the scandal became public, the most transparent Administration in history has done everything in its power to spin the story, stymie Congressional investigators and run out the clock.

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September 16, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 15, 2014

The IRS Scandal, Day 494

IRS Logo 2The Hill:  Rand Paul Jokes He's 'Really Worried' About Anthony Weiner:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) poked some fun at former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) over his sexting scandal on Thursday.

“How many people here have a cellphone?” Paul asked an audience in New Hampshire, according to Breitbart News. “How many people think it’s none of the government’s damn business what you have on your cellphone?”

“I’ve been thinking that’s true,” Paul continued. “But I’m really, really worried about Anthony Weiner. Because you know he likes to take his selfies, and he’s had trouble finding a place to put them where the government can’t find them. So I’m thinking maybe Anthony Weiner should put his selfie in Lois Lerner’s emails.”

New York Post:  5 Lies That Have Shaped the Obama Presidency:

3. “Not even a smidgen of corruption.”

Obama said this in response to Bill O’Reilly’s question about the IRS scandal: “You’re saying no corruption?”

If there were not even a “smidgen of corruption,” as Obama insisted, it is hard to understand what outraged him, or at least seemed to, when news of the IRS scandal first broke. “It’s inexcusable, and Americans are right to be angry about it, and I am angry about it,” Obama said in May 2013. Obama routinely expressed anger when some new scandal erupted on his watch — IRS, the failed ObamaCare website, the VA scandal, Fast and Furious — but never before had he shoved a scandal down the memory hole so quickly.

And how could Obama know there wasn’t a smidgen of corruption before the investigation was even over? Perhaps because the administration knew that any proof of that was gone with deleted e-mails and destroyed hard drives?

The Wall Street Journal Report:

Paul Gigot: New developments in the ongoing investigation into the targeting of conservatives groups by the IRS, with the tax agency revealing last week that it lost the emails of five more employees, including a senior aide to Lois Lerner, the former official at the center of the scandal. That news comes amid fresh claims by House Oversight Committee chair, Darrell Issa, that Eric Holder's Justice Department is improperly collaborating with congressional Democrats in its own IRS probe. And this time, he says he has a phone call to prove it. ...

Kim Strassel: I think what you're seeing over the past week, and especially because of the latest revelation about the Justice Department--remember, the Justice Department is supposed to be investigating this IRS scandal. And instead, what we've got as an accumulation over the last few weeks is a bunch of evidence that suggests the IRS and Justice Department and other departments of the Obama administration instead appear to have been spending the past year doing everything they possibly can to impede congressional investigators in getting to the bottom of this affair.

So not just coordinating with Democrats. We now have news about Lois Lerner's BlackBerry being wiped. This happening after Congress had already starting investigating, after the Treasury inspector general had begun his investigation. You have the emails of other critical people in this scandal gone as well, at least five of them.

You have redactions in documents that are being sent so the investigators can't actually see the core conversations. And by the way, I should also note, the only reason we even know any of this is because of outside litigation, which has enlisted the help of the judicial branch, and judicial branch has been forcing the IRS and others to come clean with some stuff. That's why we're finding out they haven't been clean with congressional investigators.

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September 15, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The IRS Scandal, Day 493

IRS Logo 2The Blaze:  Lois Lerner Fallout: GOP Looks to Stop IRS Workers From Using Personal Email at Work:

The Republican House next week plans to take up three IRS-related bills, including one that would prevent all IRS officials from using their personal email while at work.

The issue has come up in the GOP investigation of former IRS employee Lois Lerner and her role in the IRS targeting scandal. Not only has the IRS said it lost more than two years’ worth of Lerner’s emails, but it has become clear that Lerner used her personal email for work purposes.

The legislation from Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.) is just one simple line prohibiting this practice: “No officer or employee of the Internal Revenue Service may use a personal email account to conduct any official business of the government,” the bill reads.

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September 14, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The IRS Scandal, Day 492

Friday, September 12, 2014

Columbia Law Prof Is Victim of a 'Practice Audit'

Philip Hamburger (Columbia), Victim of a Practice Audit:

Audit 3Over at Instapundit, I read yesterday that the IRS defended its Breitbart audit with this statement: “The IRS stresses that audits are based on the information related to tax returns and the underlying tax law — nothing else.”

Glenn aptly writes “And who could hear this without laughing?” Actually, I know from personal experience it is false, because a while back I was subject to a “practice audit.”

It began with a notice that I was being audited for my charitable contributions. This was puzzling as my contributions were entirely in cash. To be sure, I was ashamed that they were pitifully low that year, but this made the audit all the more curious. Dutifully, I trekked up from the South Side to the federal building in downtown Chicago, and my accountant came in from out of state! ...

[The IRS man] asked some perfunctory questions and then turned to my charitable contributions. He looked at my embarrassingly low contributions, he examined my proof of having made them, and then seemed to weigh some profound question of tax law. The moment of truth had arrived.

At this point, however, I could not help myself. Being a former tax lawyer, but now being merely a client, I foolishly asked the idiotically simple question that had been bugging me all along: “Why am I being audited for cash contributions?”

The IRS man looked at us. Then, calmly and without discomfort, said, “It is a practice audit.”

Instinctively, I leaned forward and exclaimed, “WH . . . .” I never finished. My accountant, a well-built guy, was a step ahead of me. I felt his left arm pushing me back into my seat, while he said, “Thank you for sharing that. I assume then that this matter is closed.” The IRS man promptly agreed and that was that. ...

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September 12, 2014 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

The IRS Scandal, Day 491

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The IRS Scandal, Day 490

IRS Logo 2Commentary:  Is Eric Holder Trying to Protect the IRS?:

[I]t looks like Holder’s Department of Justice is seeking to help the IRS and the Democrats protecting the IRS. And the only reason the public knows about it is that Holder’s office accidentally called the wrong phone. Oops.

The left’s response to the IRS targeting scandal has morphed over time as more information has come to light. Mostly gone are the truthers who think nothing unethical happened or that this is an aimless witch hunt. It’s now clear to any sentient person that the IRS was indeed engaged in this targeting scheme ahead of a presidential election. Additionally, as I wrote last week, it’s since been revealed that the IRS began destroying evidence once the investigation into the targeting began.

That particular destruction of evidence concerned Lois Lerner, the former official at the center of the scandal, in order to get rid of her email correspondence. The media yawned at the revelation of the destruction of evidence, apparently tiring of this story. So the same day of Fallon’s phone call to Issa’s staff, the IRS admitted it lost the email of “five more workers who figure in the investigation into the alleged targeting of conservative nonprofit groups,” as the Wall Street Journal reported.

The Democratic response to the investigation has thus gone from the eminently silly denial that anything untoward took place to actively trying to thwart the investigation and run interference for the IRS–which, in its targeting scheme, was only following the pronouncements of high-level congressional Democrats, after all. And those Democrats have gotten quite uncomfortable with the investigation. Democratic Sen. Carl Levin has put together a report attacking the inspector general conducting the investigation.

Such interference and/or stonewalling wouldn’t be out of character for this DOJ. As the Washington Examiner reported yesterday, according to the department’s inspector general “Department of Justice senior officials have barred or delayed the inspector general there from gaining access to documents crucial to high-visibility investigations.”

The “nothing to see here” brigade has lost any semblance of credibility. In response, they’d like to make sure there’s actually nothing to see by the time investigators come looking for it.

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September 11, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The IRS Scandal, Day 489

IRS Logo 2Washington Post:  IRS Chief’s Legal Adviser Spread Word of Missing E-mails to Treasury Lawyer:

Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen testified this summer that he played no part in spreading word of the agency’s controversial missing e-mails to the Treasury Department or the White House. But one of his closest advisers apparently did.

Transcripts of closed-door testimony with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee show that IRS attorney Catherine Duval acknowledged telling Treasury legal counsel Hannah Stott-Bumsted about the matter. A Fox News affiliate first revealed the testimony in a report Monday.

Washington Post:  Issa Accuses Holder Spokesman of Attempting to ‘Conspire’ With Democrats on IRS Documents:

Attorney General Eric Holder’s communications director is being accused of calling the House Oversight Committee Republican staff and asking for help spinning a story. The twist? The GOP staff alleges that Holder’s spokesman thought he was talking to the Democrats.

Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) sent a letter to Holder on Monday about the incident, saying he was “extremely troubled” that the Justice Department may have been trying to coordinate with the minority staff on the release of documents to the committee regarding the Internal Revenue Service targeting certain political groups.

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September 10, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

CPAs File Class Action Against IRS Seeking Recovery of $150 Million in Fees Paid by Tax Practitioners

Press Release, CPAs File Class Action Seeking Recovery of More Than $150 Million in Fees Collected by IRS From Tax Practitioners:

RTRPTwo certified public accountants (CPAs) filed a class action complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia earlier today challenging Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulations requiring tax practitioners to annually register and pay a fee to the agency to obtain and maintain a preparer tax identification number (“PTIN”).  The class action involves more than 700,000 individual practitioners.  It seeks an injunction barring collection of the fee and recovery of the more than $150 million in fees the IRS has collected since 2010.

The challenged regulations were issued several years ago as part of a broad IRS initiative to radically expand its oversight of attorneys, accountants, and other tax return preparers who prepare tax returns for compensation.  Earlier this year, the D.C. Circuit Court ruled that large portions of the regulations issued by the IRS were invalid because the IRS lacked statutory authority to issue the regulations. Loving v. United States, 742 F.3d 1014 (D.C. Cir. 2014). 

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September 9, 2014 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 488

IRS Logo 2New York Observer: Will Orange Be the New Black for IRS Chief Lois Lerner?, by Sidney Powell:

With five more Computer Crashes, a “pattern of racketeering activity” may be emerging.

Late last Friday afternoon, in a blatant “late news dump” to avoid making headlines about the Internal Revenue’s witch hunt against conservative non-profits, the IRS disclosed to Congress that five more of the IRS computers containing relevant records had mysteriously crashed. Those computers belonged to colleagues of Lois Lerner, whose conduct is at the center of the investigation.

Perhaps there is some strange computer virus that selectively trashes records inconvenient to incumbents, like the “glitch” that erased part of Nixon’s tapes. How else to explain the fact that this is the fourth announcement of an ever-expanding computer calamity connected to Lois Lerner to emerge from the IRS? First it was just Lerner’s computer that was affected, then those of her closest co-conspirators, then “no more than twenty” computers, and now an ever larger batch of burned out workstations.

Even more interesting, the IRS has apparently not yet shared this newest tidbit with Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, the distinguished and courageous jurist presiding over Judicial Watch’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. Judge Sullivan has made the most progress so far in uncovering the conspiracy among Lerner and friends to target, harass and illegally obtain information from conservative non-profit organizations to benefit Mr. Obama’s reelection campaign—for which the law firm of Ms. Lerner’s husband, Michael Miles, also hosted a voter registration event. ...

While the agency continues to blame “computer crashes” for the now more than 20 people whose emails are “missing,” no IRS official has yet to identify when or how each computer crashed—much less why. We know Lois Lerner’s hard drive, which was “scratched” only a matter of days after receiving a letter from Congress requesting her emails. The IRS then destroyed it. The IRS followed a year later with the destruction of her unimpaired Blackberry containing emails for the same period. As we reported first, it made no effort whatsoever to obtain information from the Blackberry—despite being well into the Congressional inquiry. That is obstruction of justice and destruction of evidence—worse than the conduct for which Leslie Caldwell, now head of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, destroyed Arthur Andersen LLP and its 85,000 jobs.

Any number of federal criminal statutes might apply to these facts, including Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 1343—Wire Fraud; Section 1503—Influencing officer generally; 1505—Obstruction of proceedings before department, agencies and committees; and Section 1519—Destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in federal investigations. Sections 1343 and 1503 are also predicate offenses for the federal Racketeering Statute, Section 1961, which provides that a “pattern of racketeering activity” can be proved by committing two predicate acts. These statutes are punishable by terms of imprisonment varying from five to twenty years. ...

So yet again, the IRS simply creates more questions and at least five more reasons for Judge Sullivan to name a special prosecutor. When did each of the now more than 20 computer crashes occur—by date and time? How could that possibly happen? Why did the IRS prematurely cancel its longstanding contract for backup? Why did it take this long to find out that 5 more had “crashed?” Where is the Blackberry or other device for each of the persons whose computer crashed? What servers are implicated? Whose resignations are forthcoming? Why is Koskinen still there? Who is on Emmet Sullivan’s short list to be the special prosecutor?

Evidence is mounting by the day that Lois Lerner and her co-conspirators abused the power of the sovereign, violated the trust of the people, lied to Congress, destroyed documents and evidence of their wrongdoing, and violated multiple criminal statutes.

With the revelations of this last week, Lois Lerner and the IRS might as well be sitting on a ticking bomb . . . and it’s about to explode.

Forbes:  IRS Loses Emails Of 5 More Key Employees, Including Lois Lerner's Aide, by Robert W. Wood:

The IRS announced that it lost emails from five more IRS workers relevant to the ongoing investigation into whether the IRS targeted conservative groups. It’s a new black eye for an agency that has had many. It was only a few months ago that the IRS revealed that Lois Lerner’s emails were gone.

Lerner remains the key figure at the heart of the controversy. Now, in another belated announcement, the “we lost five more too” raises new questions why no one seems to know very much. Or maybe they won’t say. When the whole mess came to light, Mr. Lerner refused to testify and was held in contempt of Congress. She could be prosecuted and face jail, though that’s unlikely.

The five employees include a senior aide to Ms. Lerner. Two of the latest 5 IRS employees with “computer crashes” worked in the Cincinnati IRS office processing applications for tax-exempt status. The Cincinnati office, it’s worth remembering, was where those “rogue” employees of the IRS were off supposedly doing their own thing without the say-so of their bosses at the headquarters of the IRS in DC.

(Image credit: grassfire.com)

(Demand an IRS Independent Prosecutor Petition available at http://grassfire.com/2014/06/irs-independent-prosecutor/. Image credit: grassfire.com)

Again blaming computer crashes, the IRS said it found no evidence that anyone deliberately destroyed evidence. But Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and he isn’t so sure.

“First it was only Lois Lerner,” Rep. Issa said. “Now we learn there are 5 others, several months after the administration supposedly came clean about email losses. To the contrary.… each of the five hard drive issues resulting in a probable loss of emails substantially predates the onset of the investigations in 2013.”

The IRS had a backup tape system, but officials have said the agency routinely recycled the tapes. Besides, some of the real juice may be in text or instant messages. In 2013 when the IRS targeting scandal was already brewing, Ms. Lerner asked an IRS IT specialist if the IRS saved texts. No, they are not automatically saved, came back the response. The IT person went on to say that saving them was possible, though, so be careful.

“Perfect,” came Ms. Lerner’s reply. Congressional investigators, Judicial Watch and others doubtless want emails and texts, especially since it now appears that there was a little more off-the-grid mentality when it came to texts. Many Republicans think former IRS official Lois Lerner knows a lot.

USA Today:  E-mails Show IRS Attempts at Damage Control:

Lerner has emerged as the central figure in the IRS' handling of tax-exemption applications by conservative groups before the 2012 election. The Exempt Organizations office she headed subjected groups with names such as "Tea Party" and "Patriots" to more scrutiny and longer wait times than similar liberal advocacy groups, according to congressional Republicans.

The Democratic-controlled Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released the documents Friday along with a report finding that mismanagement, and not political bias, was responsible for the targeting.

The documents show Lerner's efforts to persuade Treasury auditors that there was no institutional bias at the IRS, the agency's attempts to head off a damaging investigation with a pre-emptive apology, and Lerner's pep talk to her staff after the apology.

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September 9, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, September 8, 2014

The IRS Scandal, Day 487

IRS Logo 2Washington Post:  Why Did the IRS Clean Out Lois Lerner’s Blackberry as Probes Began?:

Congress had little opportunity to debate the Internal Revenue Service’s missing-e-mail controversy while on break during the past month, but lawmakers will have plenty to talk about when they return next week.

One question likely to come up is why the IRS wiped out Lois Lerner’s Blackberry shortly after congressional staffers interviewed the then-IRS official about suspected targeting of conservative groups.

So far, the IRS has provided no answer. ...

IRS attorney Thomas J. Kane said in a separate declaration that the agency “removed or wiped clean” information from the Blackberry in June 2012, shortly after congressional staffers questioned Lerner about the targeting allegations and in the same month that the IRS inspector general began examining the issue.

Kane offered no explanation for why the IRS “removed or wiped clean” the data, and the IRS did not respond to the same question when asked by The Washington Post on Wednesday.

Taxable Talk:  IRS Won’t Say Why It Erased Lois Lerner’s Blackberry, by Russ Fox:

Let’s assume you’re under a court order to find some emails. Your hard drive crashed, but you think that some of them are saved on your Blackberry. Would you:

(a) Try to find them on the Blackberry,
(b) Do nothing, or
(c) Erase the Blackberry.

If you’re the IRS, the answer is (c). After the IRS was on notice about the missing Lois Lerner emails the IRS then wiped clean Ms. Lerner’s Blackberry. ...

As Reason.com stated,

There may be a reasonable explanation for all this. But if there is, the IRS has yet to provide it, and in fact has refused when asked to do so. Combined with all the other suspicious and convenient omissions, lapses, and losses related to this case, it does make one wonder if perhaps there isn’t a reasonable explanation to be offered.

There’s nothing to add to Reason’s conclusion.

Washington Examiner:  We Still Don't Know Why Lois Lerner's Blackberry Was Wiped Clean

Glenn Reynolds (Tennessee):  Well, I Can Certainly Guess:  "At this point, I don’t think even the most credulous can really regard all this data destruction as anything other than a criminal conspiracy to cover up evidence of wrongdoing."

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September 8, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The IRS Scandal, Day 486

IRS Logo 2Sharyl Attkisson, IRS Says It Has Lost Emails From 5 More Employees:

The Internal Revenue Service has lost emails from five more employees who are part of congressional probes into the treatment of conservative groups that applied for tax-exempt status, the tax service disclosed Friday.

The IRS said in June that it could not locate an untold number of emails to and from Lois Lerner, who headed the IRS division that processes applications for tax-exempt status. The revelation set off a new round of investigations and congressional hearings.

On Friday, the IRS issued a report to Congress saying the agency also lost emails from five other employees related to the probe, including two agents who worked in a Cincinnati office processing applications for tax-exempt status. ...

The IRS blamed computer crashes for all the lost emails. In a statement, the IRS said all the crashes happened well before Congress launched its investigations.

The IRS first told Congress in June that other employees involved in the probe also had computer problems. At the time, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen promised lawmakers a report on whether any had lost emails. The report was issued Friday.

"Throughout this review, the IRS has found no evidence that any IRS personnel deliberately destroyed any evidence," said the IRS statement. "To the contrary, the computer issues identified appear to be the same sorts of issues routinely experienced by employees within the IRS, in other government agencies and in the private sector."

When Congress started investigating the IRS last year, the agency identified 82 employees who might have documents related to the inquiries. The IRS said 18 of those people had computer problems between September 2009 and February 2014. Of those employees, five probably lost emails - in addition to Lerner - the agency said Friday.

Lerner, who was placed on leave and has since retired, has emerged as a central figure in congressional investigations. The other five employees appear to be more junior than she. In addition to the Cincinnati workers, they include a technical adviser to Lerner, a tax law specialist and a group manager in the tax-exempt division.

In general, the IRS said the workers archived emails on their computer hard drives when their email accounts became too full. When those computers crashed, the emails were lost. "By all accounts, in each instance the user contacted IT staff and attempted to recover his or her data," said the IRS statement. The IRS has said it stored emails on backup tapes but those tapes were re-used every six months. The inspector general's office is reviewing those tapes to see if any old emails can be retrieved..

"The IRS has lost thousands of emails, but worse yet, completely lost the American people's trust," said Sarah Swinehart, a spokeswoman for House Ways and Means Republicans. "The DOJ must appoint a special prosecutor so the full truth can come out."

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September 7, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The IRS Scandal, Day 485

IRS Logo 2Senate Permanent Committee on Investigations Majority Report, IRS and TIGTA Management Failures Related to 501(c)(4) Applicants Engaged in Campaign Activities:

The primary conclusion of the Majority staff report is that, contrary to common understanding and widespread reporting, the IRS actually exhibited no bias in its review of conservative groups. The Majority staff report claims that the IRS targeted liberal and conservative groups equally and that a Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) report on the targeting of conservative groups was fundamentally flawed.

Senate Permanent Committee on Investigations Minority Report,  IRS Targeting Tea Party Groups

The Subcommittee Minority staff sharply disagrees with the conclusions reached by the Majority staff report. While some liberal groups were examined by the IRS from May 2010 to May 2012, there were far fewer such groups, they were systematically separate from the review of conservative groups, their questioning was far less intrusive, and, in some cases, the liberal groups were affiliates of specific organizations like ACORN that had behaved illegally in the past and could reasonably expect additional scrutiny. The inclusion of a scant few liberal groups by the IRS does not bear comparison to the targeting of conservative groups.

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September 6, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 5, 2014

The IRS Scandal, Day 484

IRS Logo 2Judicial Watch Press Release:  New IRS Documents Show Lerner Did Not Need Conservative Group Donor Lists – Emails Mention “Secret Research Project” by Top IRS Official:

Judicial Watch today released a new batch of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) email documents revealing that under former IRS official Lois Lerner, the agency seems to acknowledge having needlessly solicited donor lists from non-profit political groups. According to a May 21, 2012, memo from the IRS Deputy Associate Chief Counsel: “such information was not needed across-the-board and not used in making the agency’s determination on exempt status.” Later, in her May 10, 2013, remarks in which Lerner first revealed in response to question she planted about the IRS targeting of conservative groups, she conceded that the requests for donor names was “not appropriate, not usual.” The new documents obtained by Judicial Watch also reveal that 75% of the groups from whom the lists were solicited were apparently conservative, with only 5% being liberal.

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September 5, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

IRS Releases EITC Overpayment Data

IRS, Compliance Estimates for the Earned Income Tax Credit Claimed on 2006-2008 Returns:

EITC Logo (2014)This report presents information about the nature of errors taxpayers made when claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) in Tax Years 2006 through 2008. This is the latest of several analyses of EITC compliance undertaken by the IRS over the years to help understand behavior and develop strategies for improving the administration of the credit. Prior to this report, the most recent analysis was conducted for Tax Year (TY) 1999 in a report commonly called the 1999 Compliance Study. 

As with the earlier studies of compliance, the analysis in this report relies on audit data; in this case, the audits were conducted by IRS’ National Research Program (NRP). NRP audits are like other IRS audits but provide the added benefit that they can be used for population estimates of taxpayer reporting compliance. One challenge with using audit data is that taxpayers do not always respond to or participate in the audit as required. In particular, 15 percent of EITC filers selected for an NRP audit of a TY 2006-2008 return did not participate in the audit, compared to 6 percent selected for an audit for a TY 1999 return. When this happens, the audit outcomes may not reflect their “true” eligibility for the credit.1 To address this uncertainty, two sets of estimates are presented throughout this paper, reflecting different assumptions about the true compliance behavior of these taxpayers: the “higher” estimate assumes that audit nonparticipants are generally noncompliant and the “lower” estimate assumes that the true compliance of audit non-participants is the same as the compliance of otherwise similar audit participants.

We find no discernible change in the overall tendency for noncompliance between 1999 and 2006-2008. This is based on a comparison of “dollar overclaim percentages,” defined as total dollars overclaimed as a percent of total dollars initially claimed for EITC (before considering IRS corrections or enforcement). In TY 2006-2008, the estimates of the overclaim percentage are 28.5 percent (lower estimate) and 39.1 percent (higher estimate).

Table 2b

Comparable figures from the 1999 Compliance Study are 30.9 percent and 35.5 percent. ...

While the overall tendency for noncompliance is little changed, the growth in the EITC program has led to an increase in total dollars of claims and overclaims since 1999. Averaging over returns filed for TY 2006-2008, an estimated 23.7 million taxpayers claimed an annual total of $49.3 billion in EITC, compared with 18.8 million taxpayers claiming a total of $31.3 billion in EITC in TY 1999. Total overclaims for TY 2006-2008 are estimated to be $14.0 billion (lower estimate) or $19.3 billion (higher estimate). Similar figures from the 1999 Compliance Study are $12.3 and $14.0 billion, after adjusting for inflation ($9.7 and $11.1 billion in current dollars).

(Hat Tip: Leslie Book.)

September 4, 2014 in IRS News | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 483

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal editorial:  Tax Collectors in the Cafeteria: The IRS Doesn't Like the Way Silicon Valley Does Lunch:

Having harassed the Tea Party for years, the Internal Revenue Service is now targeting Silicon Valley. The tax collectors are offended by the practice, common in the technology industry, of providing meals to employees without counting the food as taxable compensation. ...

[L]ast week the Treasury published the annual list of IRS priorities and ominously included a plan for new guidance "regarding employer-provided meals." As a large bureaucracy, the IRS has no fewer than 317 such projects on its priority list. In this case they seem to mean it. The Journal reports that IRS auditors are now flagging the issue and demanding back taxes from companies amounting to 30% of the meals' fair-market value, according to lawyers for the firms.

You don't have to be a software programmer to think that the IRS ought to focus on other priorities. For example, not one of the 317 projects is devoted to accurate and complete disclosure of the agency's role in targeting the President's philosophical opponents.

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September 4, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The IRS Scandal, Day 482

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The IRS Scandal, Day 481

Monday, September 1, 2014

President Obama Appoints Ronald Pearlman to the IRS Oversight Board

The White House has announced the appointment of Ronald Pearlman to the Internal Revenue Service Oversight Board:

IRS Oversight BoardRonald Alan Pearlman recently retired as a Professor of Law at the Georgetown University Law Center, a position he held from 1999 to 2014. Previously, he was a Tax Partner at Covington & Burling from 1991 to 2000. Mr. Pearlman was Chief of Staff on the Joint Committee on Taxation of the U.S. Congress from 1988 to 1990 and a Tax Partner at Bryan Cave from 1986 to 1988. Prior to Bryan Cave, Mr. Pearlman served at the Department of the Treasury, first as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy from 1983 to 1984, and subsequently as Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy from 1984 to 1985. Before joining Treasury, Mr. Pearlman was a Tax Partner at Thompson & Coburn from 1969 to 1983. Mr. Pearlman received a B.A. from Northwestern University, a J.D. from the Northwestern University School of Law, and an L.L.M. from the Georgetown University Law Center.

September 1, 2014 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 480

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The IRS Scandal, Day 479

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The IRS Scandal, Day 478

Friday, August 29, 2014

The IRS Scandal, Day 477

IRS Logo 2Sharyl Attkisson:  Can Justice Dept. Investigate IRS Impartially?:

Should a special counsel take over the Justice Department probe of lost IRS emails and the targeting of conservative tax-exempt groups?

Attorney General Eric Holder says there’s no need: his Justice Department is conducting a thorough and fair investigation.

But can the Justice Department be impartial in IRS probe of “lost” documents while, at the same time, defending the IRS in civil litigation over the lapse?

The question is raised in the context of a Freedom of Information lawsuit filed against the IRS by the conservative watchdog Judicial Watch. In what seems to be yet another about-face, Justice Department lawyers Friday told Judicial Watch the elusive documents may have been saved, after all, on some type of government-wide backup system from which materials are difficult to retrieve. So, on the one hand, the Justice Department is investigating the IRS. On the other, it is representing and defending the IRS.

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August 29, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The IRS Scandal, Day 476

IRS Logo 2New York Post editorial:  IRS Back-up Baloney:

Some 15 months after Americans learned about the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups, we still have no clue how such an abuse was allowed to happen. And every day, the story only gets murkier.

This week, for instance, a government watchdog group, Judicial Watch, said administration officials admitted that all the “missing” e-mails belonging to Lois Lerner (the woman at the heart of the scandal) had been backed up after all — as part of a practice to back up all the government’s e-mails. ...

An administration official later denied it had said anything new to Judicial Watch and claimed the group was mischaracterizing the facts. The problem for Americans is that the government’s story has always seemed incredible — so why believe anything it says now?

There’s more: According to a sworn declaration, Lerner had two Blackberries, one of which contained all of the e-mails that would have been sent to her crashed computer. But that Blackberry “was removed or wiped clean of any sensitive or proprietary information and removed as scrap for disposal in June 2012” — even after the hard drive “crash” and months after an initial congressional inquiry. How did that happen?

The more we learn, it seems, the less we know. And the less the public can trust their own government. It’s long past time for real answers.

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August 28, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Tax Court Approves the IRS's Taxation of Frequent Flyer Miles

CitiBank LogoThe Tax Court yesterday required the taxpayer to include $668 in income as reported by Citibank on Form 1099-MISC as the value of an airline ticket received by the taxpayer upon redemption of 50,000 "Thank You Points" from opening a Citibank account. Shankar v. Commissioner, 143 T.C. No. 5 (Aug. 26, 2014).

(Hat Tip: Phil Hackney.)

Update:  Sam Brunson (Loyola-Chicago), Tax Court: Frequent Flier Miles Are Income

August 27, 2014 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

IRS Ethics Lawyer Facing Possible Disbarment

IRS Logo 2Washington Times, IRS Ethics Lawyer Facing Possible Disbarment, Accused of Lying:

A lawyer in the IRS ethics office is facing the possibility of being disbarred, according to records that accuse her of lying to a court-appointed board and hiding what she’d done with money from a settlement that was supposed to go to two medical providers who had treated her client.

The disciplinary arm of the D.C. Court of Appeals has recommended that Takisha McGee, a section manager in the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility, lose her law license over the charge, which stems from a personal injury case she worked about a year before she joined the tax agency.

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August 27, 2014 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 475

IRS Logo 2Real Clear Politics:  George Will on IRS: "It Is Off The Rails And It Is Now Thoroughly Corrupted":

I can just hardly wait until the IRS lawyers go into that courtroom and tell the judge that it would be too onerous to stop obstructing justice in this case. That's a really interesting defense. You know, Lily Tomlin, the comedian, used to have a character, the Bag Lady, who said, 'no matter how cynical you get you, just can't keep up.' And that's the way it was with the IRS.

Remember this thing began in deceit with Lois Lerner planting a question to reveal this getting ahead of the Inspector General of the IRS report. Then there were a few rogue agents in Cincinnati. The IRS is the most intrusive and potentially punitive institution of the federal government and it is a law enforcement institution and it is off the rails and it is now thoroughly corrupted.

People are saying, 'well, the Justice Department can take care of this.' There is a reason why Jack Kennedy had his brother [as] Attorney General. There is a reason why Richard Nixon had his campaign manager John Mitchell [as] Attorney General. It is an inherently political office and it can't be trusted in cases like this.

 

 

The order from U.S. District Court Judge Emmett Sullivan was certainly clear enough. In a landmark victory for Judicial Watch, the federal judge ordered the IRS to submit sworn declarations detailing what happened to Lois Lerner’s “lost” emails and what steps were being taken to find them. What was provided was a garbled explanation from no less than five IRS officials with more holes than a block of Swiss cheese. ...

These sworn declarations came from five IRS officials: Aaron G. Signor, John H. Minsek, Stephen L. Manning, Timothy P. Camus, and Thomas J. Kane.

We noted that the IRS and DOJ filings seem to treat as a joke Judge Sullivan’s order requiring the IRS to produce details about Lois Lerner’s “lost” emails and any efforts to retrieve and produce them to Judicial Watch as required under law.

This is the story we’re supposed to believe, according to these IRS officials: Lerner’s crashed drive was analyzed by two technicians who employed a variety of tech tactics to recover the data, to no avail. The drives – which, mind you, had no recoverable data according to these experts – were then “degaussed” (wiped clean) “to protect against any possible disclosure of… taxpayer information.” Anyone with even a passing familiarity with the IRS email scandal would have realized that these filings were a blatant continuation of the cover-up.

Well, if there’s one thing I know, it is that most federal courts don’t take kindly to being treated disrespectfully and expected to act like a somnolent member of Congress as administration officials mislead, omit, and play games.

Sure enough, in a stunning move, Judge Sullivan took the extraordinary step of launching an independent inquiry into the issue of Lerner’s missing emails. ...

Judicial Watch has filed hundreds of FOIA lawsuits. I have never seen this type of court action in all my 16 years at Judicial Watch.

Judge Sullivan has already authorized Judicial Watch to submit a request for limited discovery into the missing IRS records after September 10. So stay tuned for further details very soon.

Judge Sullivan took the additional step of appointing Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola to manage and assist in discussions between Judicial Watch and the IRS about how to obtain the missing records. Magistrate Facciola is an expert in e-discovery.

August 27, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The IRS Scandal, Day 474

IRS Logo 2Judicial Watch, Statement on Discovery of Backups for “Missing” Lois Lerner IRS Emails:

Department of Justice attorneys for the Internal Revenue Service told Judicial Watch on Friday that Lois Lerner’s emails, indeed all government computer records, are backed up by the federal government in case of a government-wide catastrophe.  The Obama administration attorneys said that this back-up system would be too onerous to search.  The DOJ attorneys also acknowledged that the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) is investigating this back-up system.

We obviously disagree that disclosing the emails as required would be onerous, and plan to raise this new development with Judge Sullivan.

This is a jaw-dropping revelation.  The Obama administration had been lying to the American people about Lois Lerner’s missing emails. There are no “missing” Lois Lerner emails – nor missing emails of any of the other top IRS or other government officials whose emails seem to be disappearing at increasingly alarming rate. All the focus on missing hard drives has been a diversion. The Obama administration has known all along where the email records could be – but dishonestly withheld this information. You can bet we are going to ask the court for immediate assistance in cutting through this massive obstruction of justice.

New York Observer:  IRS Shocker: Filing Reveals Lerner Blackberry Destroyed; The Device Was Wiped AFTER Congressional Inquiry Began:

The IRS filing in federal Judge Emmet Sullivan’s court reveals shocking new information. The IRS destroyed Lerner’s Blackberry AFTER it knew her computer had crashed and after a Congressional inquiry was well underway. As an IRS official declared under the penalty of perjury, the destroyed Blackberry would have contained the same emails (both sent and received) as Lois Lerner’s hard drive. ...

With incredible disregard for the law and the Congressional inquiry, the IRS admits that this Blackberry “was removed or wiped clean of any sensitive or proprietary information and removed as scrap for disposal in June 2012.” This is a year after her hard drive “crash” and months after the Congressional inquiry began.

The IRS did not even attempt to retrieve that data. It cavalierly recites: “There is no record of any attempt by any IRS IT employee to recover data from any Blackberry device assigned to Lois Lerner in response to the Congressional investigations or this investigation,” according to Stephen Manning, Deputy Chief Information Officer for Strategy & Modernization.

House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform:  Justice Dept’s IRS Representation Conducted by Former IRS Attorney Involved in Targeting of Conservatives Himself:

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Regulatory Affairs Subcommittee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) today sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder reiterating bipartisan calls for the appointment of a special counsel for the Administration’s Justice Department investigation of Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) targeting of conservative groups after new documents obtained by the Committee showed additional conflicts of interest within the Justice Department. Among other examples, a current Justice Department attorney who represented the IRS in litigation relating to the IRS’s targeting of conservatives was in fact previously an IRS employee and was involved in the IRS’s scheme to target conservatives.

The Committee has learned that Andrew Strelka, currently an attorney at the Justice Department’s Tax Division, worked from 2008 to 2010 at the IRS in the Exempt Organizations (EO) Division, formerly headed by Lois Lerner. Emails show that Strelka was directly involved in the IRS targeting of conservative tax-exempt applicants. In March 2010, Strelka received an e-mail from IRS manager Ronald Shoemaker directing him to “[b]e on the lookout for a tea party case.” Shoemaker directed Strelka: “If you have received or do receive a case in the future involving an exemption for an organization having to do with tea party let me know.”  Strelka also received an e-mail in June 2011 about the crash of Lois Lerner’s hard drive.  Until recently, Strelka represented the IRS in civil litigation relating to the IRS targeting.

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August 26, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, August 25, 2014

The IRS Scandal, Day 473

IRS Logo 2Personal Liberty Digest: IRS Answers Due Today In Lawsuit Over Missing Lerner Emails:

The Internal Revenue Service is expected to present sworn testimony today to a federal judge who cracked down on the agency after it offered dismissive responses to a previous discovery order aimed at explaining how Lois Lerner’s infamous “lost” emails went missing. ...

Judicial Watch’s lawsuit against the IRS is faring better than a similar one filed by Texas-based conservative group True the Vote. Earlier this month, federal judge Reggie Walton denied True the Vote’s request for an independent forensic audit of IRS computers connected with Lerner’s emails, saying it would only duplicate the investigative efforts of the government’s Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

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August 25, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The IRS Scandal, Day 472

IRS Logo 2The American Thinker: IRS E-mails: The Perfect Storm:

August 22 is another deadline for the Obama administration’s IRS officials to come clean about their clear malfeasance in office. Judge Emmet Sullivan, who has acted sua sponte to compel IRS officials to provide all the details surrounding the “lost” e-mails, has the reputation of a judicial pit bull, a federal judge who insists that his orders and his office be treated with proper respect.

This is a scandal ordinary Americans can completely grasp in all its incarnations. The Obama administration picks out its political opponents for particular persecution. The organ of federal power chosen for this persecution, the IRS, is despised and feared by millions of Americans. Did Obama’s flacks forget that the last major congressional action to rein in the IRS, the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998, passed the Senate by a vote of 97 to 0 and the House by a vote of 402 to 8, and was signed into law by Bill Clinton? ...

The explosion of information technology expertise among ordinary Americans means that even the relatively apolitical snicker at the hapless efforts of the IRS bosses to pretend that all the e-mail records have been lost. Most Americans use e-mails all the time and know just how difficult it would be to utterly scrub forever even casual e-mails sent to friends and acquaintances. Most Americans in their ordinary lives assume that an e-mail they send will exist in myriad places, and that if their computers crash, this will not affect these independent records of e-mails sent.

The scandal then is the perfect storm of political corruption. Obama’s IRS partisans do something very bad. They complement this misbehavior with condescending e-mails that seem to relish their abuse of political opponents. When confronted by the proper regulating agency within our constitutional system, Congress, they smirk, dissemble, rebel, and ignore. These bad folks then assume that ordinary Americans know much less about information technology than they do and think that they can lie with impunity. When the third branch of government, the Judicial Branch, is brought into the argument, these IRS clowns lie and hide again. ...

What all this means is that when these records appear – and with a federal judge threatening IRS employees with jail time, these records will appear – then the whole sordid mess will implode like a deck of cards. The depth of corruption, like the depth of corruption in the VA scandal, will be impossible to fob off as rogue employees acting badly. Heads will have to roll, and this grim knowledge will move those who know the truth – very likely people we have not heard of yet – to come out of the shadows and to spill their guts to save themselves. It is the perfect storm, and it is coming up fast.

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August 24, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

IRS Releases 2012 Individual Income Tax Return Data

IRSThe IRS yesterday released  (IR-2014-83) Publication 1304, Individual Income Tax Returns 2012:

U.S. taxpayers filed 144.9 million individual income tax returns for tax year 2012, down 0.3 percent from 2011. The adjusted gross income less deficit reported on these returns totaled $9.1 trillion, which is an 8.7-percent increase from the prior year.

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August 23, 2014 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 471

IRS Logo 2Washington Examiner op-ed:  The Case for Impeaching Lois Lerner and Other Lawbreakers at the IRS, by Ken Cuccinelli & Mark Fitzgibbons:

In April, the House Ways and Means Committee referred Lois Lerner to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution. Nothing has come of it. Given the politicization and lawlessness of the DOJ under Attorney General Eric Holder, nothing likely will.

The House should move to impeach Lerner instead, and other IRS officials who have broken the law. Federal bureaucrats need to be sent a message that lawbreaking is not part of their job descriptions, and that notwithstanding our recalcitrant Justice Department, our constitutional system provides this remedy against executive branch officials gone rogue under the law.

More importantly, Americans deserve to know that lawbreaking within their own government will have consequences. ... If criminal conduct within the IRS and the federal bureaucracy won’t be prosecuted, our Constitution at least gives our elected representatives a check of impeachment on unelected “civil officers.”

Impeaching Lerner and others may actually help restore some faith that someone in government takes the rule of law seriously.

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August 23, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, August 22, 2014

The IRS Scandal, Day 470

Thursday, August 21, 2014

ObamaCare Tax Forms Pose Challenge for Enrollees, Exchanges

Washington Times, Obamacare Tax Forms May Pose Challenge for Enrollees, Exchanges:

Obamacare customers won’t be able to file their tax returns next year until the government sends them a form detailing their coverage and tax credits, and if those forms are late some taxpayers could face a delay in seeking their refunds.

1095A

Federal and state officials said they’re working on the forms, known as the 1095A, and vowed to meet the Jan. 31 deadline for issuing them. But some tax professionals are skeptical, citing the administration’s iffy track record on being able to meet other deadlines in the massive health overhaul law. “It really strains credulity to think 1095A is not going to be a big problem,” said George Brandes, vice president for health programs at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service.

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August 21, 2014 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 469

IRS Logo 2Breitbart:  Federal Judge Takes Extraordinaru Steps in IRS Lawsuit:

The order from U.S. District Court Judge Emmett Sullivan was certainly clear enough. In a landmark victory for Judicial Watch, the federal judge ordered the IRS to submit sworn declarations detailing what happened to Lois Lerner’s “lost” emails and what steps were being taken to find them. What was provided was a garbled explanation from no less than five IRS officials with more holes than a block of Swiss cheese. ...

These sworn declarations came from five IRS officials: Aaron G. Signor, John H. Minsek, Stephen L. Manning, Timothy P. Camus, and Thomas J. Kane.

We noted that the IRS and DOJ filings seem to treat as a joke Judge Sullivan’s order requiring the IRS to produce details about Lois Lerner’s “lost” emails and any efforts to retrieve and produce them to Judicial Watch as required under law.

This is the story we’re supposed to believe, according to these IRS officials: Lerner’s crashed drive was analyzed by two technicians who employed a variety of tech tactics to recover the data, to no avail. The drives – which, mind you, had no recoverable data according to these experts – were then “degaussed” (wiped clean) “to protect against any possible disclosure of… taxpayer information.” Anyone with even a passing familiarity with the IRS email scandal would have realized that these filings were a blatant continuation of the cover-up.

Well, if there’s one thing I know, it is that most federal courts don’t take kindly to being treated disrespectfully and expected to act like a somnolent member of Congress as administration officials mislead, omit, and play games.

Sure enough, in a stunning move, Judge Sullivan took the extraordinary step of launching an independent inquiry into the issue of Lerner’s missing emails. ...

Judicial Watch has filed hundreds of FOIA lawsuits. I have never seen this type of court action in all my 16 years at Judicial Watch.

Judge Sullivan has already authorized Judicial Watch to submit a request for limited discovery into the missing IRS records after September 10. So stay tuned for further details very soon.

Judge Sullivan took the additional step of appointing Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola to manage and assist in discussions between Judicial Watch and the IRS about how to obtain the missing records. Magistrate Facciola is an expert in e-discovery.

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August 21, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The IRS Scandal, Day 468

IRS Logo 2Wonkette:  Laura Ingraham Explains That Thugs Gonna Thug:

What do you think would have happened, guys, if tea party activists, right, came to Washington D.C. after the IRS scandal broke and decided to start smashing windows, rampaging through neighborhoods, throwing fire bombs. What do you think Eric Holder and Barack Obama would do? Would they start saying, ‘Well, we understand that people are angry, we really get your emotion here, but this isn’t acceptable. Do you really think there would have been this nuanced language, this emoting that has become the pastime of this administration?

Washington Times:  Intolerance on the Left: The Marketplace of Ideas Can’t Function Without Civility:

We often hear those on the right branded as “intolerant.” We’re all a bunch of extremists who just want to shut down the other side, right? We’re unlike those on the left, who welcome debate and want to give all viewpoints a respectful hearing.

Or so we’re told. We might even start to believe it — until we encounter the oh-so-tolerant voices of our loyal opposition. Voices such as: ...

Lois Lerner: According to emails written by the former Internal Revenue Service official, conservatives are “crazies” and another word too obscene to quote. Conservatives who dare to criticize the government, in her view, want to “take us down.” Small wonder that the agency targeted conservative groups during Ms. Lerner’s tenure.

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August 20, 2014 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)